Assassin’s Creed Unity
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One (Reviewed)
Install Size: 38.35 GB
Release Date: November 11, 2014
Price: $59.99 US – Available Here $99.95 AU – Available Here
The Assassin’s Creed games have dropped players in the middle of the Crusades, traverse the streets of Florence, made them fight through the American Revolution, and even a captain of our own pirate ship in the Caribbean. Now with Assassin’s Creed Unity, Ubisoft is bringing players to the French Revolution in their first title developed solely for current gen consoles. The question is, has the company succeeded with Unity?
As mentioned, Assassin’s Creed Unity takes place before the French Revolution during the 18th century. The Assassins and Templars are still at one another’s throats as usual, and although players may start out as an innocent young Arno Dorian, we find his innocence shattered when his father is murdered a few minutes into the title where he is then taken in by a new family.
A now grown Arno learns after a series of unfortunate events and time spent in jail for a crime he did not commit, that his father was a member of the Assassins and he has inherited his father’s skills. With the knowledge of the warring factions and his place in the world, Arno sets himself on a path to discover the truth behind his father’s death and seek revenge all while the French Revolution begins to burn through the streets of Paris.
Despite the fact that the French Revolution is raging throughout most of Assassin’s Creed Unity’s plot, it ultimately feels like Arno has barely any influence on what is actually happening throughout the city as we only rarely are given missions that actually deal with the happenings of the revolution and instead are given a narrow minded goal that is weakly guided along from point to point for quite some time before the story tries to tie everything together near the end.
Thankfully what is present from the revolution is still a joy to behold as we are given a nice blend of historical information with a fictional twist to work the Templars and Assassins in to the mix. Also for what it is worth, Arno does make for a bit of a decent lead character and his personal ties to the story are a nice bonus considering the tight focus players are presented with.
Now as with every Assassin’s Creed game, there is a more modern element to the story and thankfully this time it is kept to a bare minimum. As an unknown person simply called the “Initiate”, you are contacted by the modern day Assassins and given the task of sifting through Arno’s memories using a backdoor in Abstergo’s security, occasionally forcing you to escape to different “unfinished memories” of different time periods to escape their firewalls. These time periods, while a nice change of pace, are not only short but generally add next to nothing to the actual storyline of the main game, mirroring the almost non-existent part that the modern day storyline actually factors into the game.
The core mechanics for Assassin’s Creed Unity have been reworked slightly but still feel very much the same. The free running and climbing aspects have been given a “run up” and “run down” option that allows the player a little bit of extra control on where they will be jumping next. That being said, the free running does feel a bit stilted at times as Arno will either completely ignore ledges that he can clearly make it to at times, or launch himself to an obviously out of reach handhold. It is nice to note however that the run down option also allows players to quickly and safely climb down from a building simply by holding the button down without worrying about dying from a drop.
The actual combat system is also slightly modified and now players will need to not only keep track of the gear they are wearing in relevance to the area they are at but also fiddle with the new simpler item system. Using items such as smoke bombs, money pouches, firearms, and the new Phantom Blade (a wrist-mounted crossbow apparatus that shoots daggers) all are swapped between using left or right on the d-pad. This keeps the flow fast paced and also, thanks to the fact that enemies will not simply stand there and wait for you to take out your current target, difficult to manage as well.
Earlier I mentioned that there are various gear elements in the game and it has created a title that is a bit more RPG like than before. Not only are players given various “skill points” to level up certain abilities that either unlock new attack moves, assassination techniques, or increase the strength of different abilities, but all of the gear in the game contributes not only to your health and defense but also to various other statistics.
There is a lot of gear to purchase and unlock in Assassin’s Creed Unity and the title does show you how difficult certain areas will be and mention if you should hold off until you have better equipment before tackling it. Unfortunately, while there is plenty of gear to be unlocked through missions and purchased in-game, a disturbingly large number of chests force the player to use a companion app to unlock. This forces players to not only put the game down to try and connect the app, which fails miserably, but also detracts from the experience as much as the various reminders about the ability to purchase items using real money does.
Once you do venture on a mission that you are set up for, you’ll find that many of them are the same fair that has been present in past Assassin’s Creed games. The only thing that has really been changed is that the occasional assassination missions let the player finish mini tasks before going in for the kill that not only give the player unique kill options for their targets but also give you various ways to approach a target. This helps set these mission apart by actually giving the player an extra level of control to how things will play out and choice to how they will take down the target.
In lieu of a competitive multiplayer aspect, Assassin’s Creed Unity has offered a large number of missions that are co-op focused. You see, not only can you explore the streets of Paris with up to four people at a time, but there are also a number of missions that need four assassins to work together to complete. It is worth noting that not all of these co-op missions actually require other players to complete, but it is really fun to work together with others and complete a goal, even if it really doesn’t change up the standard formula of the game in any way other than provide some extra narrative.
Other than the story missions, the city of Paris is littered with various side-missions and activities to test your skills on. This includes extra rift missions that revisit the time periods mentioned earlier, little side missions with a bit of extra story here and there, puzzles to solve, as well as various organic crowd events that will see players tackling thieves, facing down criminals, and protecting civilians all while traveling through the city. Oddly enough, despite the amount of things you can do, it actually feels like the city of Paris is a scaled down title compared to what fans of the series are familiar with, though this is likely due to the large number of similar looking areas spread throughout the game.
Then again, it might also be thanks to the fact that there are an abhorrent number of glitches that riddle Assassin’s Creed Unity. The biggest of these issues comes in the form of a terrible frame-rate problem that sees the game stuttering even during the most simple of sequences and becoming ridiculous during cut scenes. I also cannot count the times that I found either Arno’s hair glitching out, the crowd jittering in some way, or Arno becoming stuck in combat finisher animation and looking ridiculous for a period of time. It is also quite nice that Unity saves often, since the city of Paris also suffers from a pothole problem that involves Arno falling through the level.
Visuals & Audio
Outside of the numerous animation glitches there have been a significant improvement to not only the graphics of Assassin’s Creed Unity but the amount of content visual at any given time as well. While everything in the city has an extra level of detail, including the numerous pieces of equipment that Arno can wear, the amount of citizens walking or rioting through the streets and the draw distance of the map, which is especially gorgeous atop viewpoints, is astounding. It is also nice to note that a number of new animations have been added to Arno’s free running abilities, making traveling through and over the city look smoother than ever.
The soundtrack to the game is somewhat standard fair and the voice work is similarly so, as the title sports a number of fitting voice actors. Though considering the game is set in France and a number of French words are laced in with the English dialogue, it sounded like there were far too many British accents at play for main characters.
Assassin’s Creed Unity feels like a game where every step forward is also a step back. Despite offering an abundance of side activities, it feels shallower than past titles even though it does help set itself apart thanks to the refined combat and free-running mechanics and equipment system. The addition of co-op is a nice touch that makes for some of the best moments you will find in the game, it is also hampered by constant frame rate issues and glitches that hopefully will be resolved somewhere down the line.
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